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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
Basketball teamwork is admired for the functionality and collective sacrifice of five ball players working in harmony to achieve a common goal. In public speaking, the speaker and the audience are a team. One doesn’t function without the other. Take a moment and visualize the speaker as the point guard and the audience as the remaining four players.
The point guard is viewed as the ‘one’ that makes the team ‘tic’. They’re the ‘one’ that carries the ball forward in offense and takes responsibility for calling the plays. The point guard is usually fast, smart, and full of energy. They’re the ‘go to’ player on the team.
The audience' role is to follow the point guard's lead. They listen for the play, watch for a passing ball, and look to the player that will make the shot.
As a speaker, you control the content, the energy, and the mood of the presentation. Part of your job is scoring points with the audience to keep the game moving toward a favorable outcome. The responsibility is intense but well worth the effort.
Understanding the connection between the speaker and the audience is key. Since a speech doesn’t involve a verbal dialogue between speaker and audience, the non-verbal communication is the driving factor. If the audience is engaged...game on. If the speaker's message is clouded by an ineffective delivery, they’ll lose interest and call a timeout.
There’s no truer cliché than actions speak louder the words. Understanding the mechanics of behavior such as gestures, eye contact, posture, facial expressions, appearance, anything other than non-linguistic factors will determine if the team is ahead at half-time of if there's going to be a 'butt-chewing' in the locker room.
A recent study that analyzed TED talks speakers shared some positive feedback from people that used hand gestures. The study found that viral speakers tend to average 465 hand gestures per engagement. The study also found that people who talk with their hands tend to be viewed as warm and more agreeable.
Inserting movement into your speech is a bonus. When speaking extemporaneously or with just enough notes to jog your memory, gestures can be viewed positively. It’s when gestures become a distraction, that the added movement becomes a deterrent as opposed to an asset.
When using gestures, make sure they are purposeful. For instance, if the speaker wants to emphasize the main points of their speech, they may indicate each main point by simultaneously verbalizing the main point while holding up their hand and displaying one finger at a time: first, second, and third.
By practicing with planned gestures, the speech becomes more fluid and natural. The same holds true when moving around a stage. Incorporating a few steps toward the audience, will help create a more intimate setting. Recalling late night comic Jay Leno, once the stage moved closer to the audience, an instant connection formed.
Eye contact is another non-verbal behavior a speaker may use to connect with the audience. There’s a technique called the ‘z movement’ that encourages the speaker to be inclusive while engaging with the audience. The speaker moves his/her gaze from the left-front of the room, to the right-front, to the left-rear, and finally to the right-rear of the room. Using this particular pattern gives the illusion that the speaker is looking directly at each individual audience member.
By using good defensive tactics (like good eye contact), the speaker can detect if the audience is interested or drifting away. If it's the latter, the speaker can adjust the playbook before the audience completely disengages.
It's important to note that not all cultures view eye contact in the same light. For instance, Asian cultures don’t believe in the necessity of direct eye contact. Iranian cultures believe eye contact is rude. While Native Americans show respect by avoiding eye contact. As a public speaker, it’s good to be aware of social norms.
Another defensive tactic on the court is to stand tall with hands in the air to block the shot. Standing tall behind the podium or beside the podium is essential. No slouching, leg-crossing, or one-legged pelican stands allowed. The idea is to have a commanding presence...to be the tallest guy in the room (You may want to keep your hands to your side, though).
If there’s a podium and you’re not quite tall enough, bring something to stand on. It doesn't have to be announced that you require a lift. Bring a stool and set it in place before speaking. Many that are short, will opt to stand to the side of the podium.
One of the best assets a speaker has is facial expression. There are over one thousand micro-expressions at your disposal. If the mood of your speech is happy a smile is appropriate. If your content is more serious in nature, keep a somber face. Make sure the non-verbal behavior fits the content of your speech.
First impressions are vital. If you’re going on a job interview, dress appropriately or if unsure, overdress. The same goes for public speaking. The speaker should be more formally dressed than the audience.
The color of your attire as a public speaker is important. For light backgrounds, wear dark clothing. For dark backgrounds, wear light clothing. You want to be noticed on stage not blend into the background. There are many small details to review before speaking at a new venue. If possible, investigate the layout before committing to your wardrobe.
The rules are as follow: The speaker sets the pace of the game. You're the point guard, take control. Interact with your team, the audience, it's essential for success. If you want to be an above average or even a 'great' public speaker, incorporate non-verbal behaviors into your speech. It will separate the winners from the losers.
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Liz Latta, Editor/WKCTC Instructor with over 15 years teaching experience. Master's Degree in Organizational Communications from Murray State University